Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney starts every morning the same way.
At 4:45 a.m., she makes a Cuban double espresso and heads to the gym for a cardio session. When she returns to her Wantagh home, she fixes breakfast for her two children and dresses for work. Most days, she selects a pantsuit and heels; but sometimes, she breaks out riding breeches and boots. After all, she noted, she never misses a chance to ride a horse — even though her schedule is usually full.
As a lawyer, councilwoman and mother, Sweeney described her life as a balancing act. Although she said she’s pulled in many directions — and that juggling those responsibilities can be difficult at times — one thing is certain.
“I’m always a mom first,” she said.
Sweeney, a 42-year old Republican and Seaford native, has politics in her blood. Her father is U.S. Rep. Peter T. King, so Sweeney said she learned how politics and policy impact people’s everyday lives at an early age.
“He exposed us in a good way, like telling us how to help your neighbor or finding a pothole that needs fixing,” she said of her father. “He always reminded us that there was something out there greater than us.”
King said his daughter absorbed all that he was doing politically. He noted that he first realized that she might have a future in the field when she was only 12 years old.
“I had a limited amount of money for a statewide race and decided to put it all into one TV ad,” he explained. “ About three or four advisers and I were sitting around the kitchen table for about an hour, going nowhere, when Erin calmly walked over, took the language we had, drew a graphic design and said, ‘Why not just do this?’”
King did, in fact, use his daughter’s idea. Even though he lost that election, the advertisement won an award.
Although Sweeney said she loved such experiences, it was a bit unique compared to other children her age. “While kids were going to Disney World, we were traveling to Belfast, Ireland,” she said with a laugh.
After traveling during her high school years and even living in Austria for a year, Sweeney became the third generation of Kings to attend the University of Notre Dame, where she studied law. She is now a partner at Eckert Seamans, focusing her legal work at the firm on transportation-related matters.
She also met her husband, John Sweeney at Notre Dame. Together, they moved to Wantagh and are raising two children, Jack, 12, and KatieMae, 8.
Sweeney always considered herself a typical working mother, managing the responsibilities of a family with the demands of a career. She also decided to get involved in the community, joining the Wantagh-Seaford Homeowners Association. She is also a board member for the Cradle of Aviation Museum, as well as an American Heart Association Circle of Red member.
In January 2015, she got busier. Then, Sweeney was appointed to the town council seat for the 5th District, replacing the retired Angie Cullin. She won the election in November of that year as well, and continues to serve sections of Seaford, Wantagh, Baldwin, Freeport, Bellmore, Merrick, Point Lookout and Lido Beach.
At first, formally entering politics wasn’t easy for Sweeney. She said that a large area of Baldwin, especially the downtown section near Grand Avenue, is in need of business growth and creating jobs in the area is nearly impossible.
“Every single person in Baldwin has told me the same story—that we need development,” she said.
With the help of colleagues in the Town of Hempstead, Sweeney said she has been continuously trying to improve Baldwin — whether it’s dedicating new storefront signs, finding better parking solutions and helping out new business owners however she’s able. “You just don’t want an empty downtown,” she added.
King — who noted that, since his first race for Congress, he’s regularly ran issues and ideas past his daughter — said that Erin has and will always fight for the underdog. John also said he sees how much his wife cares about the neighbors she serves and quality of life issues they might have.
“In a plastic world, where political conventions have become like Hollywood award ceremonies, Erin stays true to herself and doesn’t say things she doesn’t believe,” John said. “I believe that she brings a lot to the table: intelligence, determination and the sheer will to get things done.
John explained that he also tries to help his wife balance things at home. “I mainly do the cooking on the weekends because that is not one of Erin’s talents,” he said with a laugh. “But that is OK, — I hate vacuuming.”
On her down time, Sweeney can be found at either Camp Anchor in Lido Beach, helping children with special needs, or riding at stables in Lakeview. Her daughter shares Sweeney’s passion for horses — but it’s too early to tell if KatieMae will follow in her mother’s and grandfather’s political footsteps.
“I want my children to find their own way,” Sweeney said. “I don’t want to push them, but if they can help out in the community, that’s great, too.”